Inmarsat, SITAONAIR and Philippine Airlines announced an upgrade and expansion of inflight connectivity on the airline’s fleet this week. The Global Xpress (GX) platform will deliver a significant boost to passengers and connected crew functions as the upgrades are deployed.
The carrier currently carries L-band service powered by SITAONAIR on its 777s (8 in service). Those aircraft will be upgraded to GX thanks to the new deal. PAL will also add GX to its new A350 (6 on order) and A321 (21 neo on order, ceo fleet in service, unclear which get the kit) aircraft. Conspicuously absent in the release is any mention of the A330 fleet (15 in service, 5 pending) PAL operates.
The upgrade facet of the Philippine Airlines/SITAONAIR/Inmarsat GX deal is hard to understate. The release calls attention to it a couple times in the opening paragraphs (emphasis mine):
SITAONAIR is to deliver the upgrade of PAL’s existing B777 Swift Broadband fleet to GX Aviation, together with line-fitting PAL’s new Airbus A350s and A321s. Once complete, SITAONAIR will activate its rich nose-to-tail package of bespoke inflight connectivity (IFC) services, achieving a significantly enhanced and consistent connected experience for passengers and cabin crews.
SITAONAIR’s award-winning, intuitive Internet ONAIR portal offers contextualized and personalized content, satisfying digitally-demanding passengers over GX connectivity by mirroring their ‘at-home’ experience, and with free 30-minute Wi-Fi sessions and cheaper price plans on offer to all passengers.
In addition to being woefully underpowered for most plane-wide data needs L-band is also terribly expensive. Upgrading to GX allows Philippine Airlines to deliver both a better experience and drop the price to the passenger.
The PAL system will also extend connectivity to the in-seat entertainment system as SITAONAIR develops “integrated, connected inflight entertainment from Zodiac Inflight Innovations” in the deal. Details on exactly what that means remain scarce. Potential exists for real-time news, frequently updated short video clips or full content updates over the GX kit, with price and complexity considerations on all fronts.
(Yes, I know the A330 in the header image is not getting the kit; it just happens to be the photo of a PAL plane I have)
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